With the rising number of Muslims in the world, the Brunei government emphasises the importance of developing the Halal industry, particularly pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Muslims account for close to a quarter of the global population and have been major drivers of the Halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics market.
Halal medicines and cosmetics must be carefully assessed before they are put on the market. Brunei makes use of its stringent Halal certification process to ensure products are of top quality and Halal-certified, gaining the trust of consumers.
Brunei is one of the first nations to establish Halal pharmaceutical guidelines in the world. With Brunei’s stringent Halal certification process, companies based in Brunei have the benefit of a well-respected Halal certification label across their products.
Simpor Pharma Sdn Bhd
Simpor Pharma Sdn Bhd is the first Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliant, state-of-the-art pharmaceutical products and health supplements manufacturer in Brunei. It is a BND26 million joint venture between Canadian Viva Pharmaceutical Inc, private equity fund Aureous (Brunei) Capital Sdn Bhd and a group of local investors.
The world’s first Halal pharmaceutical company has a 100,000-square feet manufacturing facility situated on a 7.5-acre plot within the Salambigar Industrial Site. The plant is custom-designed and built to meet FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) pharmaceutical requirements by design, materials of construction, utilities including purified water, drains, electrical and lighting systems. Simpor’s comprehensive products range from soft-gels, tablets, hard shell capsules and powder and granules to liquids, creams and gels. It also has natural health products that consist of herbal medicines, vitamin-mineral supports, food supplements and dietary preferences.
In February 2017, SP Lifestyle Store, Simpor Pharma Sendirian Berhad’s first lifestyle store, officially opened its door at Brunei International Airport. With the launch of SP Lifestyle Store, Simpor Pharma hopes to reach out not only to the local community but also to introduce more ‘Made-in-Brunei’ products to visitors to Brunei.
Sengenics, a genomics and proteomics-based research and diagnostics company opened its new DNA sequencing and microarray facility at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) in 2015. The partnership between UBD and Sengenics grew from a research collaboration agreement, which began in July 2014.
Sengenics’ Brunei-based facility focusses on two core activities. Firstly, the company offers commercial services leveraging its patented autoantibody profiling platform and the clinical genomics diagnosis pipeline. Secondly, in
collaboration with UBD and supported by the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) through the Brunei Research Incentive Scheme (BRISc), Sengenics will embark upon two novel Halal meat and food related research and commercialisation projects.
In April 2017, the new Sengenics Immunome Production Facility was opened in UBD. The new state of the art facility offers protein cloning and expression services using the patented BCCP (Biotin Carboxyl Carrier Protein) folding marker technology. This will support the commercially available flagship technology that is offered by Sengenics, the Immunome Protein Array Platform, which is used for a variety of pharmaceutical screening and drug discovery applications.
MC Biotech Sdn Bhd
Several Japanese companies have invested in Brunei, generating employment and contributing to the diversification of Brunei’s economy. One of them is MC Biotech.
MC Biotech is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation and was launched in 2016. With a strong track record in biotechnology, MC Biotech produces the antioxidant microalgae astaxanthin, used in health supplements and cosmetic products. Astaxanthin is one of the strongest antioxidants in nature and on the market. Studies have shown astaxanthin provides benefits to the immune system and helps muscle recovery.
Setting up MC Biotech’s production facility in Brunei has several advantages. As the first commercial biotechnology facility in Brunei, MC Biotech is exempt from income tax for 11 years, as well as import duties. The air and water
quality in Brunei are suitable to grow microalgae. Brunei offers among the lowest utility rates in the region.
MC Biotech’s BND20 million production facility is called the ‘Sinar Suria Bio Center’. In Malay, ‘Sinar Suria’ means ‘sunlight’, a testament to MC Biotech’s desire for eco-friendly growth methods using natural means, and the needs of the haematococcus algae in producing astaxanthin.
The facility aims to be one of the top suppliers of quality astaxanthin. Sinar Suria Bio Centre is the first commercial biotechnology facility at the Bio-Innovation Corridor, an industrial park geared to attract Halal and bio-industry related investments.
Executive Director Yuki Kaneda said MC Biotech Sdn Bhd was formed as a result of putting forth a proposal of cultivating astaxanthin-producing microalgae in Brunei. A collaborative research effort was carried out with the government. MC Biotech successfully cultivated the microalgae and extracted astaxanthin. Based on the results, a promising future lies ahead to develop the cultivation of microalgae and related-biotechnological industries due to Brunei’s naturally purer air and water, and cleaner environment which positively affects the growth of the microalgae.
MC Biotech received support from DARe, a statutory body that has helped many local startups. DARe assisted MC Biotech with networking and logistics. MC Biotech announced they would transition to the commercial phase in the DARe Bio Innovation Corridor.
In September 2017, MC Biotech participated in the 7th Vitafoods Asia Event in Singapore. The company joined more than 200 global suppliers in the nutraceutical industry to showcase their latest products and innovations.
One of the challenges MC Biotech faces is the amount of time and discussions needed to proceed with commercialisation. To assist MC Biotech, the Brunei government has given them permits and licenses to begin operations.
MC Biotech uses their commercially proven Japanese technology. As part of their procedures, they must have an astaxanthin concentration of more than four per cent. To increase the astaxanthin concentration, MC Biotech will continue their research. They have found local strains of the algae isolated in Brunei. Some of them produced astaxanthin.
As such, these strains may be potentially used for commercial purposes. MC Biotech will conduct further research on the optimal conditions needed to produce astaxanthin.
Microalgae cultivation technology is not limited to astaxanthin production. Microalgae is a potential source for food and fuel. MC Biotech aims to expand its horizon beyond health supplements and cosmetic products.
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